The second session in the online seminar series of the International Symposium 2021 was held via Zoom from 3:30pm to 5:30pm on Thursday, October 14, 2021.
Speaker: Hiro Fujimoto (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellow, Kyoto University). Dr. Fujimoto joined our joint research project in 2019, when he was a junior exchange fellow at Yale University and the National University of Singapore (April 2019 through February 2020). He received a Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo in 2019. He is the author of Medicine and Christianity: American Protestant Missionaries and their Medical Work in Japan (Tokyo: Hōseidaigaku Shuppankyoku, 2021) (published in Japanese).
Discussant: Masafumi Kitamura (Professor, Osaka City University)
“Medical Missionaries and Encounters between the West and Asia”
Dr. Fujimoto introduced his new book on American Protestant missionaries and their engagement in medical work in modern Japan. In a departure from the general tendency among scholars to devote attention almost exclusively to German medicine in terms of its contribution to medical progress in modern Japan, Dr. Fujimoto’s book directs the focus on American missionaries and their activities, thereby uncovering an unknown history of medicine in Japan between the late 1850s and the early twentieth century. His empirical analyses primarily of publications of various Christian denominations and their missionaries reveal a shift in how medicine worked for the purpose of American missionaries—from being an indirect way of proselytizing Japanese people, most of whom had initially been hostile to Christianity, to a way of practicing charity. Importantly, this development was concomitant with the process of professionalization of medical doctors and practitioners in both the United States and Japan.
Professor Kitamura, who specializes in German history, provided some observations on the shifting nature of what medicine meant in the United States and Japan by adopting a global perspective and providing European examples in which medicine was something that only a small number of well-to-do could afford until the turn of the twentieth century. He also emphasized that studying how the charitable medicine introduced by American missionaries interacted with, if not confronted, the indigenous forms of medicine that had been practiced by Japanese physicians would have particular relevance in seeking a deeper understanding of the experiences of peoples at the margin of society in modern Asia—the core issue under exploration by our joint research project of comparative study.
Further discussions centered on an even broader issue, specifically the possibility of situating Dr. Fujimoto’s observations of American missionaries at the intersection of the changing nature of medicine and the compartmentalization of religion during the modern period.